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United by Fire

Early on Sunday, January 27, an arsonist caused heavy damage to St. Gregory of Nyssa Greek Orthodox Church in El Cajon. Early damage estimates to the structure and its contents totaled close to $250,000. There were no injuries. On Sunday morning, children and adults bundled up for the cold weather, gathered for their regular weekly service. They sat outside, facing a makeshift altar in the church’s garage with some icons and vestments rescued from the fire.

The same thing had happened at St. David’s in 1991. Not only was there an arson fire at St. David’s, the church building burnt to the ground. This destructive fire remains a key part of St. David’s story. After the parishoners got over their shock and anger, they got to work rebuilding both the physical structure and their sense of community. They also reached out in fearless love to the arsonist, offering forgiveness and financial support, which continues to this day.

Knowing the significance that the arson fire has for St. David’s, and knowing how committed the parish is to outreach, I polled the vestry about the possibility of taking up a special collection for St. Gregory’s. There was unanimous support, and then St. David’s really got to work. The Prayer Quilt Squares group offered to create a quilt for the parish, and committed themselves to stitching separate prayer squares for each of the 80+ households at St. Gregory’s.

In February, Father Simeon Corona, his wife and two parishoners from St. Gregory of Nyssa visited St. David’s where the vestry and a goodly number of parishoners presented the folks from St. Gregory’s with over $1,000 in checks, the prayer quilt, 85 prayer squares and a signed card. Folks from St. David’s offered words of support and encouragement, and received the thanks of St. Gregory’s. Fr. Simeon extended an invitation to join in a Saturday Vespers service, as a means of continuing the conversation and building relationships.

Out of fire comes the opportunity to build anew. +


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